Entries in nikon (7)


(Almost) All in with Fuji

With the school year coming to a close and summer travels just around the corner, I've been doing some reevaluation of my camera gear. I haven't shot with my Nikon D90 in about 10 months, while my X-Pro1 has become my favorite travel and concert companion (everything in my 2013 albums and 2014 albums, to date, other than the Philly Cycling Classic and most of the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival photos, was with the X-Pro1).

With the new 10-24mm lens, and last year's 55-200mm zoom, Fuji now covers a great range for travel. My favorite travel lens for Europe on my D90 was the excellent Tokina 11-16mm super-wide lens. The Fuji 10-24mm is a stop slower, but has a more useful range. I'd been waffling on whether I should get the 10-24mm, mostly because I was worried it would be too large/heavy and defeat the purpose of traveling with a smaller system. But after getting my hands on one, it's manageble. Ditto on the 55-200mm; Fuji now has a credible telephoto zoom. Those two lenses and a couple of normal/fast primes makes for a nice travel kit.

On the flip side, in the last year my Nikon hasn't seen much action with the Tokina 11-16mm and 35mm f/1.8 DX; that's the range where the Fuji system excels (especially now the that 10-24mm has been released). So those, and Jen's D3100 and 18-105mm DX (since she's moving to a Fuji X-E1), found new homes to raise funds for the 10-24mm. Plus I just got a nice paycheck from some extra work I recently completed (the academic version of "consulting"), so the new 56mm f/1.2 arrived. This will be a great lens for concerts; I've been using the 60mm f/2.4 and it's okay for this, but being two stops faster and (hopefully) quicker to focus will make it a perfect concert photography lens.

It appears that I've officially moved over to the mirrorless camp, except for specific situations where the Nikon system still has Fuji beat (e.g., shooting cycling and macro). I did keep a handful of Nikon lenses; at some point I may step up to FX/full-frame and so I kept a few of my favorite lenses for that: the 105mm macro, 85mm f/1.4D, and 135 f/2 DC. The 135mm and 85mm may make for good lenses to use with a converter with the Fuji system (I shot the Aimee Mann concert with the 135mm on the X-Pro1 last spring). I also kept the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6; I wouldn't say that this is one of my favorite lenses, but I've found it to be okay for shooting cycling (at least since I don't have the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8). The only DX Nikon lens I kept was the 10.5mm fisheye. With a converter, this is a fun lens on the Fuji (and the only fisheyes available for the Fuji system are manual focus, so there's not a better option than my Nikon 10.5mm).


Nikon DSLR system: My rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated

Last week I noted how I hadn't used my Nikon D90 and lenses in many moons, in favor of the Fuji X-Pro1 and three excellent prime lenses (18mm, 35mm, and 60mm). Is the Nikon system on it's way out? Not so fast! (April 2014: see update here)

Larry Sparks (70-300mm VR @300mm, f/5.6)Having just returned from a weekend of music and photography at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, the D90 was awesome, capturing most of the images in my album from the gathering. While I've primarily been shooting with the X-Pro1 at concerts recently, in many ways that's a function of the discreteness of the Fuji when paired with one of the prime lenses in the system. At the festival I was able to wander around shooting with whatever camera I wanted without attracting my attention since there were tons of other photographers there. My D90 with 70-300mm VR lens was relatively small compared to gripped bodies with 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses I saw and I fit in with all the casual shooters with prosumer bodies and kit zooms.


For daytime shooting, the 70-300mm VR lens worked like a champ. Sometimes the images it produces seem a bit washed out, but that's usually fixable in post-processing. But the range it offers for outdoor shooting was just about perfect. Once the sun went down I switched to my 135mm f/2 DC, which is becoming one of my favorites on both the D90 and adapted on the X-Pro1. It's nice and compact and produces awesome images. One of these days when I when the lottery I'll pick up a 70-200mm f/2.8, but for now I like my kit.

Since I don't see myself abandoning the SLR platform and moving exlusively to the Fuji stytem, here's what I want in a future Nikon body: 

  • As much I'm tempted to upgrade to a full-frame body, I like the extra reach of a crop-sensor system. I could always go with a high-resolution camera like a D800 and crop when needed, but that seems like overkill, and generally I'm not so interested in the huge files that the D800 outputs. Plus I'm somewhat invested in DX lenses, primarily with my Tokina 11-16mm (my favorite!) and 10.5mm fisheye.
  • Speaking of lenses, any future Nikon I get needs to have an in-body motor, since three of my favorite lenses are the older-type that don't have in-lens focusing motors (just for review, those three are the Tokina 11-16mm, Nikon 10.5mm fisheye, and 135mm f/2 DC).
  • Improved high-ISO performance. I like shooting concerts and other low-light situations.
  • I don't care about video capabilities, but I know that this is probably something that all future DSLRs will include. Hopefully Nikon will at least keep the video functionality out of of the way and won't go overboard and make it a central feature of the camera.
  • This seems like the mythical D400 which has been hotly anticipated by Nikon shooters.

Love for the Fuji X system

Ever since getting my Fuji X-Pro1 last July (along with the x100 the previous fall), I've hardly touched my Nikon D90. Although I did use it extensively in Amsterdam, Germany and Austria, and Italy last June, since the arrival of the X-Pro1 my Nikon gear has been largely dormant. Why I've bonded with the X-Pro1: 

  • Size and weight. This is the obvious benefit. The X-Pro1 body is smaller and lighter, as are the lenses. It's awesome for travel.
  • Discreteness. Similar to the size and weight advantage, but having more to do with others' responses (or lack thereof) to me shooting with the X-Pro1. This is even a bigger deal for me than the actual size of the camera. In particular, I've taken it to a few concerts recently and have shot from my seat with excellent results (see here, here, and here). My guess is that an usher would have stopped me if it was my D90 because it looks "too professional." 
  • Manual controls. Selecting shutter speed with a dial? Check. Setting the aperture by turning a ring on the lens? Check. A dial for exposure compensation? Check. I love the old-school controls.
  • Adapted lenses. I dig that I can use my Nikon lenses with it. In particular, I figured that my 10.5mm fisheye would be really useful; the 135mm f/2 is surprisingly good too. I like manual focusing; if Fuji implements focus peaking or some other way of confirming focus, the X-system will be awesome.
  • The optical viewfinder. I love the OVF, especially with the 35mm lens, because you can see outside of the framelines to get a better sense of the scene. As much as I love the OVF, the electronic viewfinder is growing on me, having used it a lot recently with the 60mm lens and adapted Nikon 135mm.

Things the Nikon still does better:

  1. Long telephoto lenses. I have the Nikon 70-300mm lens; I don't use it much, but it's nice to have that flexibility when the situation calls for it. The forthcoming Fuji 55-200mm should cover this, so disadvantage #1 will been moot soon. And a ~135mm fast prime would have me opening my wallet in a heartbeat.
  2. A super-wide zoom. My favorite lens on my Nikon system (especially for travel) is the Tokina 11-16mm. With the Fuji platform, the only lens in that range is the lauded 14mm 2.8. It's apparently a spectacular lens, but is it wide enough? I do shoot the Tokina at 11mm quite a bit; but also at 16mm (about 75% of my shots with that lens are at one end or the other). There's also a 12mm lens coming from Zeiss soon; maybe that will suit me? Both the 12mm and 14mm lenses are pricy too. If it's optically excellent, the 10-24mm that's coming at the end of the year probably is the best fit for me (even though it's likely to be expensive too. But that means waiting! Basically, overcoming disadvantage #2 just requires a bit of patience or committing to either the Zeiss 12mm or Fuji 14mm. Update: Decided to go with the Fuji 14mm, and will think about the 10-24mm zoom when it comes out...
  3. Macro. Yes, the Fuji 60mm does allow close focusing, but it's not as long as other macro lenses (like my Nikon 105mm). And it's EVF only. Then again, see the argument about size and weight above. The Nikon 105mm micro is not a small lens. And if I want to manually focus, I can use the Nikon 105mm lens with the Fuji with an adapter.
  4. Speed. Quibbles #1 and #2 above are all well on their way towards being addressed with the growth in the number of lenses available. The one place (at least for me) where Fuji lags behind SLR systems if in shooting fast-action sports. I don't do a lot of this, but as a cycling fan, I like to shoot bike races when I can (see here and here).

What's next: 

  • Zooms: I have the 55-200mm lens on preorder (update: now arrived); my fingers are crossed that it will arrive before we leave for vacation, although right now I have it shipping to my parents' house so I can get it while I'm there. And I really want the upcoming 10-24mm offering, but that's not due until the end of 2013 and sits behind a couple of other lenses in Fuji's "roadmap." As much as the 18-55 "kit" lens is appealing, I'll probably hold off on that one. Update: This last sentence turned out to be untrue.
  • I'm trying hard to resist the 14mm lens, even though it get rave reviews. Ditto with the promising Zeiss 12mm, although if the distortion is limited with this one, it would be tempting. Update: Resistance is futile. The 14mm is on its way...
  • The 56mm 1.2 is interesting. I've been using the 60mm macro for shooting a concerts, but the two extra stops of the yet-to-be-released 56mm lens is attractive. Update: It is great!
  • There are 23mm and 27mm lenses on the Fuji roadmap but at this point I'm less interested in those (at least while I have the x100). Update (12/7/13): Found a great deal on the 27mm pancake lens, so that's on the way...
  • I'm thankful that Apple is now supporting RAW files from the X-Pro1!

F-Stop Kenti: What's in there?

I posted a few weeks ago about the search for a new camera backpack and my first impressions upon receiving the F-Stop Kenti. Today I had a chance to load up the Kenti and take it for a short walk (~2 miles), and I thought it might be useful to list what fit in the Kenti. It's surprisingly big!

  • Left side compartment (divider set with this side slightly larger)
    • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, lens hood reversed
    • Nikon D90 with a mounted 50mm f/1.4G, lens hood reversed
    • Nikon 105mm f/2.8G micro, lens hood reversed
  • Right side compartment
    • Fuji x100 in case
    • Nikon 85mm f/1.4D, no lens hood
    • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, lens hood reversed
  • Top compartment
    • Nothing in there now, but it could fit another lens, my Fuji X-Pro1, and/or a Clif Bar or two.

This is more gear than I'd typically carry on a hike (e.g., the 85mm wouldn't be in there; the 105mm or 70-300mm, but probably not both; maybe add my 10.5mm fisheye), but it's a good illustration of what fits. I'd also likely move one of these lenses to a lens case on the hipbelt for easy access. Speaking of the hipbelt, it does a great job transferring the load from your shoulders.


F-Stop Kenti: First impressions

My F-Stop Kenti arrived yesterday (see my post on deciding to order the Kenti here); here are some first impressions (sorry for the crappy iPhone photos, but my cameras were in the bag!): 

  • It's really well made, and I like that it comes with a storage bag to keep it clean when stuffed in a closet (although hopefully I'll be able to use it often enough that it doesn't get tossed into the closet).
  • The laptop sleeve is advertised to fit a 13" machine, and the 13" MacBook Air that I tried was a perfect fit. A 13" MacBook Pro would probably do okay, but it would be tighter. The slot is well-padded and a 13" laptop in its own sleeve would likely not fit.
  • The back slot that is intended for a hydration bladder fits an iPad nicely.


  • If you take out the interior dividers (two of them, held in place by velcro in a T-shape to create the top compartment and two side-accessed compartments), a 15" MacBook Pro in a sleeve fits in there. Of course, then you lose the well-designed area for camera gear, but in a pinch you can carry a larger laptop in the Kenti if you don't need to carry camera gear (or if you have a small amount of gear in its own padded cases). But it makes me think that the Kenti could have been designed to hold a 15" laptop without increasing the overall depth of the pack by more than an inch or so (at some point I'll post more on why I'm fixated on this point...it boils down to fact that I've got a 15" MacBook Pro although I'm trying to get to the point where I'm traveling with only an iPad and not bringing a laptop. My laptop is only a year old; if it was older I'd plan on replacing it with a 13" MBAir).
  • Although I don't have any trips planned, I wanted to test it out with some gear. In addition to my iPad in the back slot, I loaded it up with my Fuji X-Pro1 and three lenses (35mm attached, 18mm and 60mm in small LowePro lens cases) on one side (with room to spare), and Fuji x100 and Nikon 10.5mm fisheye (with attached Novoflex Nikon to Fuji adaptor, in a lens case) on the other side (with room to spare; nothing in the top compartment) and walked the few hundred yards to work with the pack on my back. The Fuji gear is admittedly very light, but basically it didn't feel like there was any gear in the pack. I can imagine that even with a heavier kit (my D90 and a few lenses like my Tokina 11-16mmNikon 105mm micro, 50mm prime, and the fisheye...what has become my standard travel kit), it would be very comfortable. Update: See my new post on fitting my Nikon gear in the Kenti here.


  • "Foliage green" = medium grey (with very slight green tint). I knew that when I ordered it (based on the pictures online, with are true-to-shade) and really like the color, but I don't think I'd ever say that this bag is green.
  • One thing I wish the that Kenti included was a place for a water bottle, although I don't really know how I'd change the design to accommodate one. I know it has the hydration bladder slot, but I don't have a hydration system (and don't plan on getting one...it seems more trouble than it's worth, at least for my uses). I suppose what I'll end up doing is strapping a pouch for a water bottle somewhere on the pack (either the hipbelt or on the back using F-Stop's Gatekeeper system).

X100 vs. V1 vs. ???

My photography gear includes a Nikon D90 and FM3a and a collection of nice Nikon lenses. I love carrying the FM3a (with a 40mm or 50mm lens) around for casual shooting as a "have everywhere" camera but the convenience of digital is attractive. On the other hand, the D90 fits my needs perfectly and has an ideal set of features for me, but it's too big to carry around everywhere (although I don't mind carrying it, with a bag of lenses, when photography is a primary activity). Options for an "everywhere" camera? I admit I haven't actually had my hands on any of these cameras (since the Fuji is always out of stock and the V1 hasn't been released yet) and I'm just thinking through options (i.e., this isn't a review; it's me thinking out loud about if/what I want).

Fuji X100

Upsides: Good, simple controls; a fast lens; groovy retro styling; the relatively large sensor.

Downsides: I've read that the focus system is a bit slow; not sure how I feel about a fixed-lens (I like that it's a prime lens, but will it be limiting to not be able to swap out for other lenses?).

Nikon V1

Upsides: Compact, with (in the future) a system of small lenses; some interesting new technologies; using my other Nikon lenses with an adaptor...the 35mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.4 are interesting possibilities.

Downsides: Relatively small sensor...I'm not as worried about the image quality, but the limited ability to have a really shallow depth of field is a bit of a concern; lack of buttons/knobs for key controls, instead having to dig around menus.

A micro 4/3rds system camera

I admittedly don't know a a lot about these systems; is there a small m4/3 camera with a viewfinder and good manual controls? Do I want to invest in another lens system (admittedly, the V1 would lead down this path as well)?

*   *   * 

Probably the best solution would be a Leica M9 with a handful of lenses. But I'd have to sell a kidney and all of my guitars to go this route!




Update (10/7/11): I decided on the X100; the two downsides (slow[?] focus and fixed lens) are fine given that if I want to shoot sports or carry a kit of lenses I'll take my D90. The appeal of the X100 is that it complements my Nikon system; I shouldn't expect it to have all the same features in a smaller package.

The X100 is hard to find, at least at it's list price...Given it's scarcity (non-reputible) on-line retailers seem to be jacking up the price and it's backordered at all the places I like to shop (both on-line and locally). But Crutchfield seems to have just received a shipment, and one is on its way to me!



In my last post I apologized for not being around much, so I won't go into that again. I will say that ScienceOfRelationships has been seeing some really good growth; it's fun to see a site take off. We've got some really interesting articles posted there, so check it out.

I haven't shot much since I got back from Vermont, but for those of you interested in cycling, yesterday was the Philadelphia International Championship, and Jen and I spend the day in Manayunk watching the race. I have some good pictures I'll be posting soon, with the hopes of reviving the Photo of the Week. If you want a sneak peak, see the album here.

Nikon D90 + 70-300mm VR lensI took two telephoto lenses to the race along with my beloved Tokina 11-16mm, a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR and a 135mm f/2 DC (both Nikon), not knowing which would work the best. Last year I used the 85mm f/1.4, which didn't give quite the reach I wanted. I started with the 70-300mm and found that I couldn't get my shutter speed fast enough to really freeze the action (i.e., too much blur), at least at a low ISO. So I switched over to 135mm, which is really more of a portrait lens. Although I got a few good shots with the 135mm, it doesn't focus fast enough for action sports, so I went back to the 70-300mm but kicked the ISO up. This worked pretty well, and I got some good images this way. But now I see why the 70-200mm f/2.8 is so valuable; it would have been perfect for yesterday. I've got a year to save up for one before the 2012 race!

In addition to going to the bike race in Philadelphia yesterday, we also spent some time in the city looking at condos. Living in the city would be an interesting change of pace, but I don't know whether there's enough to do in Philadelphia to make it worth it. Philly seems to have all of the hassles of a city (traffic, parking, noise, grime) without any of the charms or things to do compared to cities I've spent time in (Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, the Twin Cities). I'd still like to move to Madison, but of course I've only spent time there in the summer.

Other stuff going on: I'm looking forward to today's WWDC announcements to see what new tricks Apple as up it's sleeve. I'm especially interesting in hearing about iTunes/iCloud, but I'm not confident it will be a solution for someone like me with a massive music library (~60k songs) that were not purchased from iTunes. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I've been playing with the Google Music beta over the last few days, but it seems like it has limited utility for me because (a) it doesn't support lossless file formats, which make up 2/3rds of my library, and (b) there's no iOS playback; just Android.

I'm also very curious to see if rumors about a robust network file sharing/sync solution pan out. I love dropbox.com, and I'm interested to see if Apple could best this great service.

We just got tickets to see the Jayhawks at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside this fall. It's great that one of my favorite bands is back together and touring, and they are supposed to have a new studio album coming as well. That, in addition to a new album from Gillian Welch, will make for a good summer of music.